Newspaper clipping – iol online – 3 June 2009

Teacher unions welcome Zuma’s comments

Teachers’ unions on Wednesday welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s comments on education in his state of the nation address to Parliament “(The speech) speaks to the challenges we face as a nation in the midst of an international economic downturn and recession,” SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) president Thobile Ntola said in a statement.

It was, however, disappointed that Zuma avoided talking about problems in the public service and the occupation specific dispensation (OSD).

Ntola said the protecting and creation of jobs were crucial and the union was concerned about whether the current budget allowed the government to meet the targets that had been set.
“We need to look at the detailed programmes and plans that the President said would be made available in the coming days,” Ntola said.
“Our other concern, in relation to the education commitments is in regard to provincial budgets. Often funds are budgeted – for example for Early Childhood Development (ECD) – and not all provinces spend the money on the intended purpose. This needs to be monitored.”

Sadtu said the rollout of ECD was crucial.
“International research shows that good ECD is crucial to later success in school. So the universal rollout of Grade R by 2014 is good news (although the original target was for 2010).”

Ntola also said the union fully supported the president’s stand on sexual abuse of pupils by teachers. “(Sadtu) have called on our members to blow the whistle on abuse wherever it occurs. We have called on the Department of Education (DoE) to use its powers under labour legislation to discipline and dismiss….police must enforce the law with regard to statutory rape and we must fully support the actions of SACE (South African Council for Educators) in removing abusers from the teachers’ roll and banning them from teaching in South Africa,” she said.

Ntola said it was necessary to encourage pupils to complete their secondary education as around 40 percent do not reach matric. She also placed emphasis on Further Education and Training (FET), saying that skills training was vital.
“A recent survey shows that there are some three million youngsters between the ages of 18 and 24 who are not employed and not involved in any form of training – we have to reach out to them,” she said.

“School sports should be boosted and be part of the mainstream curriculum, not just an extra-mural activity. It is ironic that as we move towards 2010 the majority of our schools have no sports facilities or physical education programmes.”

Ntola said the union was looking forward to see the details on how access to higher education would be extended to children from poor families.

The Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unio (SAOU) said it was evident from Zuma’s speech that stronger emphasis would be given to quality service delivery in the public service.
“It is heartening to note that the present global economic crisis will be afforded priority attention,” said spokesperson Chris Klopper.
“Likewise, the remarks regarding a stronger focus on the maintenance of law and order, as well as a primary health care, are welcomed and long overdue.”

Klopper said they fully supported the principle of establishing schools as centres pf excellence.
“We can no longer afford to be surpassed by countries [such] as Mauritius, Mozambique, Uganda and Botswana in standardized tests.”

Like Sadtu, the SAOU supported the objectives for ECD, creating better discipline and a proper culture for learning and teaching in schools and the intention of the education department to establish an OSD. It condemned sexual harassment of pupils by teachers.

Klopper said stronger emphasis should be placed on the role of technical schools in more effective training and skills development.
“South Africa presently experiences a dire shortage of well trained artisans. In this regard note must be taken that the FET college sector, currently a sector in crisis, does not produce the products required by the economy.” - Sapa